A song to celebrate spring and suit winter
SHI YU/CHINA DAILY
Even the most ambitious people can hardly match the talk of a Fire Rooster.
It is often overlooked that the 12 zodiac animals also rotate in five characteristic elements: earth, metal, wood, water and fire. While the 12-year-cycle basecoat Rooster is already loud and flamboyant, its 60-year-cycle fire-elemental upgrade can talk the civilized world to cinder.
In such a potentially hotheaded year, how do we even start to talk about the sudden explosion of Chinese soft power in the world?
Although Spring Festival is now acknowledged globally, it still lags far behind the boldness of the Anglo-corporate-commercial Christmas complex. "Santa Claus" is of course a Western fabrication. In the ancient world, the cult of Christ hijacked the Greek solar calendar. The Romans worshiped the sun god. Jesus resurrected on a Sunday. Christians assimilated into the Nordic (pageant) winter tradition. Think white Christmas.
A calendar, just like the cycle of life, should ideally start with the first day of spring, but a solar calendar is fixed on dates, not seasons. So, they roughly had Jesus's birth on Dec 25, okay, and made it year 1. In contrast, a lunar calendar is manipulated every year to meet spring. The Romans famously wanted to start the solar year also in spring. It was a total mess. December actually means the "10th month".
But that is not all. Having a calendar that works for one's own geographical location is a great idea. Imposing that calendar onto the rest of the world is not so great. The "Solar New Year" starts in the midst of seasonal winter, Jan 1, and puts seasonal spring 60 days into it, March 1, while China celebrated its first day of spring this year on Jan 28. How is that possible? We could put it this way: Winter works for Westerners and spring for Chinese.
Fast forward to the 21st century and total globalism: The "Winter people" celebrate the end of the year, while the "Spring people" celebrate the beginning of a new year.
In their "Winter festival", the "Winter people" spend their salaries on mass-manufactured toy-lines and useless Christmas presents and kitsch that they play with for a maximum of five days. In their Spring Festival, the "Spring people" look at the moon and give their children hongbao－red envelopes. Cash is more shiji－practical. That's why despite being relatively poor they still can afford all the top schools in the world.
"Spring people" put a man character on their rice (you will have plenty of rice!), and pin a shanzhenhaiwei sign on their refrigerators (you will have excellent food in here!). They spend lavishly, but mostly on food and family. And they hang a fu character－bliss－onto their walls, but "upside-down", which is dao and has the same pronunciation as "arrival" or "reach".
"Winter people" live as if it was their last days and "Spring people" live as if it was their first. But it is perfectly possible to unite their festivals. In difference.
Pattberg is the author of The East-West Dichotomy.